Scientists Reveal New Avenue For Drug Treatment in Neuropathic Pain

Source: King’s College London

Summary: Researchers in a new study revealed an undiscovered mechanism of cellular communication between neurons and immune cells in neuropathic pain.

When nerves are injured, they cause a long persisting pain even after the injury is healed, this type of pain is called as neuropathic pain and is often chronic. Neuropathic pain can occur after a surgery or a car accident or else when a limb has been amputated. Currently, the available drugs for neuropathic pain are opioids and AEDs (anti-epileptic drugs). Opioids like morphine and tramadol are highly addictive and AEDs are accompanied by a whole host of unpleasant side effects. Researchers in a new study from the King’s College London revealed an undiscovered mechanism of cellular communication between neurons and immune cells in neuropathic pain which can offer a safe and effective treatment. The research findings were published in the journal Nature Communications.

Nerve injury

Cellular and mouse models of neuropathic pain are used to study a cluster of neurons in the DRG (Dorsal Root Ganglion), part of sensory neurons that play a key role in communicating information of pain to the brain. Researchers found that after nerve injury, pain neurons of this area release very small biological particles which contain microRNA-21. These particles were taken up by the surrounding immune cells that ultimately leads to local inflammation and cause neuropathic pain. The researchers showed that when they blocked DRG pain neurons from releasing microRNA-21 in small particles had an anti-inflammatory effect at a cellular level which prevented the occurrence of neuropathic pain. Researchers are trying to apply a similar method in humans to treat the neuropathic pain in specific areas with no side effects.

Professor Marzia Malcangio said,  “If new treatments based on the findings of this study, targeting microRNA-21, could be designed for patients with neuropathic pain this could provide a brand new avenue for drug treatment. Our next steps are to explore whether the same mechanism applies to other chronic pain conditions.”

More Information: Raffaele Simeoli et al, “Exosomal cargo including microRNA regulates sensory neuron to macrophage communication after nerve trauma”, Nature Communications (2017). DOI: 10.1038/s41467-017-01841-5


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